Update: companion piece posted at Strumpette.
Time for another Moment of Venn:
- Transparent + Professional = Reviewer
- Professional + Advocate = Astroturfer
- Advocate + Transparent = Customer Evangelist
Transparent + Professional + Advocate = Social Media PR Pro
Now – a little explanation about why the guys in gray are facing an uphill battle. The communities that “P.R. 2.0” is so eager to “engage” and “influence” does not want them around.
It’s okay to go in as a reviewer with no financial ties to the outcome. It’s even better to be that amateur with a great love for a product or service. You can try to cultivate those, but you have to watch out that you don’t violate the rules of Word of Mouth marketing. It goes without saying that the Astroturf crowd is just a PR backlash waiting to happen. So why would anyone have a problem with someone who sits squarely in the center of the diagram? A clearly-identified professional advocate, there to share possibly valuable and fun information?
Now we’re getting to another anomaly regarding the Wisdom of Crowds.
Even though we can rationally understand that it is in our best interest for advocates to identify themselves, crowds respond in a different manner. The decisions we would make as individuals to encourage a certain class of behaviors go through a sociological wringer, and we end up with unintended consequences.
I’m no behavioral scientist, but the proof is out there. Look at the PR people who have been kicked out of Second Life, and those warned not to violate the sanctity of the almighty Wikipedia. Some little switch flips when a crowd is involved, and the priorities change. I fear it is more than an isolated phenomenon – maybe influencers within a group or meritocracy don’t want their hard-won position threatened by an outsider, particularly one with a suspect agenda. I’m not one to say – just one to observe.
The danger PR faces as a profession is that the thought leaders are pinning their hopes on getting into the gray on my graph. They can be as effective as advertisers and marketers, but with more return on investment. Classic little-brother syndrome. What the self-described thought-leaders haven’t addressed is the reality that the very communities they want to engage see their incursions as hostile. The Gray Zone is preferable to the radioactive glow of the Astroturf Zone, but each is presently uninhabitable for a sustainable campaign.
This explains why P.R. has been conducting a P.R. campaign for P.R., but how do you preach influence and the triumph of the individual when it’s not the individual who is the enemy – it is the crowd!
Again – I don’t know. I’m just articulating a problem that no one else has defined. Isolating individuals one-on-one, you can reason with them. Getting them into one-on-one dialogue is impossible when they traffic in flocks and communities. You’re already locked out before you ever get in, because the group-brain trumps the me-brain. It’s a delicious irony that the very people who have been liberated with technology, and are free to create and choose their own channels – those very individuals are unaware that they have become possessive of the groups they own. They don’t want P.R. around precisely because they treasure the time and energy they have invested in their community. The me-brain wants the attention. The group-brain wants you out of their parents’ basement.
This strikes an even bigger blow for P.R. as it tries to gain relevance in the corporate hierarchy. It was still fairly cost effective to reach groups when they all subscribed to limited channels. If you have five options, nothing is personal enough to warrant getting really worked up over it. That’s why ads were tolerated for so long on television. Now you can’t get away with that, because the consumer gets something closer to their wants, when they want it, preferably without interruption. And how dare you intrude!